Family & Divorce

Areas of practice


Our firm deals with all legal aspects of marriage and family relationships

Alimony, or spousal support, is the payment from one spouse to another for support, based on the need of the receiver and the other spouse’s ability to pay. The amount and duration of alimony is a decision over which the court has a great deal of discretion. Either spouse can pay or receive alimony depending on the financial circumstances of each couple. No two cases are ever the same and no two awards of alimony can be compared with one another. Alimony is determined individually on a case by case basis.

According to Florida law, marriages are generally divided into three (3) categories: short term marriages, moderate term marriages and long term marriages. Short term marriages are those that are less than seven (7) years in length. There is generally a presumption against receiving alimony in these situations, but again, that can be determined on a case by case basis. Moderate term marriages are those that are more than seven (7), but less than seventeen (17) years in length. There is neither a presumption for nor against alimony in these marriages. Finally, there are long term marriages, which are marriages greater than seventeen (17) years in length. In these marriages, there is a presumption in favor of alimony, however, each case is different. Whether or not a person pays or receives alimony is based on the specific circumstances of the couple, need, ability to pay and the length of the marriage, among other things.

    There are several types of alimony available under Florida law, depending on the facts of each case.

  • Temporary alimony may be awarded during the course of a divorce to assist the receiving spouse with his or her living expenses while the matter is being litigated. Simply because a court awards temporary alimony does not automatically mean that any other form of alimony will be awarded.
  • Bridge-the-Gap alimony is alimony that is aimed at assisting the receiving spouse in the transition from being married to being single and self-supporting. Bridge-the-Gap alimony may not be awarded for a term greater than two (2) years and neither the duration nor the amount of the award may be modified.
  • Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to allow the receiving spouse to obtain education and job training to return them to the work force after the divorce is final. This type of alimony requires an exhaustive Rehabilitative Plan and may be modified by the court as to amount and duration depending on the spouse’s progress through their rehabilitation.
  • Durational alimonymay be awarded in cases where the receiving spouse requires support for a defined period of time and where permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. This type of alimony is usually awarded for a set period of time in either short term or moderate term marriages and its duration may not exceed the length of the marriage. A modification as to amount may be had with a substantial change in circumstances, but the duration of the award is generally non-modifiable.
  • Permanent Periodic alimony may be awarded in long-term marriages. It is a set monthly amount that is provided to one spouse when he or she does not have the financial means to support himself or herself. While, this type of alimony is usually only awarded in long-term marriages, it can be awarded with shorter marriage under exceptional circumstances (i.e. age of the spouse, illness of the spouse, etc.) This type of alimony can be modified with a substantial change in circumstances or if the receiving spouse enters into a “supportive relationship.”

The court must first determine if there is a need for alimony and if the paying spouse would have the ability to pay. If that is found to be the case, the court has a list of factors they must consider in making an alimony determination including, but not limited to: length of the marriage, contributions of each party to the marriage, physical and emotional conditions of each spouse, the financial resources of each spouse, etc. Remember, unless otherwise designated, alimony is generally taxable to the receiving spouse and deductible to the paying spouse.

Contact Ms. Banister at (386) 256-3057 to discuss your rights under the law regarding this complex and often times misunderstood area of divorce. It is our goal to provide each client with aggressive representation in obtaining the best possible results.

When you talk about timesharing in the context of a family law matter, no one seems to know what you mean. They wonder if you are talking about some sort of real estate transaction or your vacation rental. Timesharing is the term Florida law uses to refer to what everyone commonly referred to as “custody and visitation.”

Gone are the days when one parent received “primary custody” and the other parent received “visitation” with a child. Today, it is assumed that every parent wants an equal right to see their child and be involved in the day-to-day decisions of raising their child. The courts presume that both parents will share in the responsibilities of raising their child, unless it can be proven that this would be detrimental to the child.

Each set of parents in every divorce or paternity action are asked to determine a Parenting Plan for their child. This plan sets out the rights and responsibilities of each parent. It is a detailed plan that sets forth the following types of issues related to each individual family:

  • How the parents will share time (overnights) with the child;
  • How the holidays will be shared;
  • Whose home will be used to determine school boundaries;
  • How the parents will be responsible for health care and extra-curricular costs;
  • How the parents will share the child-rearing decisions/responsibilities;
  • How the parents and child will communicate with one another;
  • Transportation issues;
  • Decision making for the child’s medical, educational and religious needs;
  • And many more issues.

The court has the discretion to determine whether a plan agreed to by the parents is in the child’s best interest. If the parties can reach no agreement, the court can determine all of these issues after a trial. The court will consider a multitude of evidence including, but not limited to: witnesses (teachers, day care providers, family members, counselors, etc.), the testimony of the parents, medical and school records of the child, to name just a few.

Determining timesharing (child custody and visitation) is one of the most difficult and emotional aspects of any family law matter. Contact our office today at (386) 256-3057 to discuss your options. Ms. Banister will assist you in trying to reach an amicable agreement with the other parent, but if settlement is impossible, she will represent you in obtaining the best possible outcome for you and your family.

Every child has a right to be provided for by his or her parents. Under Florida law, both parents have a duty to support their child after a divorce or paternity action. Parents are not allowed to waive child support. If the parents do agree to waive support, this agreement can be set aside, if challenged. Child support payments are generally made until a child reaches 18 years of age or graduates high school. Parents do not have a legal duty to support children after they have become adults, nor do parents have a court ordered duty to pay for a child’s college education.

There is a guideline set forth by the Florida Statutes that calculates child support. This mathematical formula factors in each parent’s income, the number of children to be supported, the cost of health insurance for the parents and the child, day care costs for the child and the amount of time the child spends with each parent. The number of overnights each parent spends with the child has a significant impact on child support amounts. The court can order a five (5) percent deviation from the guidelines, considering all of the information above. A departure of more than five (5) percent requires written findings by the court.

Unlike alimony, child support is not taxable to the receiving parent, nor is it deductible by the paying parent. In most cases involving child support, parents often negotiate who may claim the dependency exemption associated with each child.

Should you find yourself in need of advice regarding establishing or modifying child support to help you provide for your child, please contact Ms. Banister at (386) 256-3057.

While there is a great degree of emotion to deal with in every divorce, many people also forget that there is a business side to divorce as well. According to Florida law, a couple’s assets and liabilities must be divided “equitably” and if they cannot come to an agreement, the court will make the division for them. The court has the discretion to divide a couple’s assets and debts fairly, using its discretion. While many people think that dividing everything equally is “fair,” that may not always be the case in a divorce.

Many people assume that if their name alone is on the title to an asset or they paid for it with their personal paycheck, that asset belongs to them only. That is not always true. Any assets or property that either spouse acquires during the course of the marriage, whether in joint name or individual name, is a marital asset. An example of some types of marital property include: vehicles, personal property, bank accounts, real property, gifts that either spouse gave to one another during the course of the marriage, a business entity or professional practice, any and all funds (whether vested or not) in a retirement account, 401k and/or IRA which were acquired during the marriage, inheritances or premarital assets (if they were “co-mingled” with marital funds or put in joint name during the course of the marriage). These are just a few examples.

Couples in today’s day and age do not just have “stuff.” They also have debts associated with that “stuff” that need to be divided as well. Marital debts include any and all debts acquired or accumulated during the course of the marriage, either in joint or individual name. Examples of marital debt may include: car loans, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, lines of credit, medical debts, business loans, tax liabilities, etc. If the couple cannot decide how to distribute this debt during the course of their divorce action, the court will make the division for them.

The court will make every attempt to be “fair” about how it divides the debt, but again, that does not necessarily mean that the division will be equal. The court will look at many factors when making this decision, some of which include: the parties’ respective contributions to the marriage or one another’s careers and education, the desires of each party to retain certain assets, as well as the assets distributed to each party in relation to the debts. If the court determines that an “unequitable” distribution must be made, this decision must be justified in writing.

Contact Ms. Banister at (386) 256-3057 to discuss your situation and learn more about your legal rights.

Divorce is a difficult situation for anyone, but you do not have to go through it alone. We would like to provide you with some information that may help you understand the process and your rights. Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state. What this means is you do not have to prove that one spouse or the other is at fault or has engaged in misconduct. Basically, you can divorce someone for any reason or no reason.

Your spouse does not need to “agree” to give you a divorce. If you can show the judge that your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” which is just a fancy way of saying that you cannot repair the marriage even with counseling, you will obtain your divorce. In order to file for divorce in Florida, you need to have resided in the state for six (6) months or more. Florida has no requirement that the parties separate or live in different residences prior to filing for divorce.

Divorces involve many issues including, but not limited to: timesharing (custody/visitation), child support, alimony, the division of marital assets and liabilities, among others. If you and your spouse can agree on all issues, you have what is known as an “uncontested” divorce; however, if you disagree about any issue, your divorce becomes “contested.” Every contested divorce is required to attend mediation. If, after mediation, you and your spouse still cannot reach an agreement, the judge will render a decision at trial.

Ms. Banister understands the rigorous requirements of the court system and Florida divorce law. She is committed to providing you the best, most aggressive representation of your legal rights in all of your family law matters. Contact her today at (386) 256-3057 and take the first step towards protecting your family and your rights under the law.

There are several types of Injunctions For Protection under Florida law. The most common type of injunction is an Injunction For Protection Against Domestic Violence. Most of us know this as a “restraining order.” If you are the victim of violence or have reason to believe that you are in imminent danger of becoming the victim of violence at the hands of a spouse, partner or family member, you may petition the court for protection. Injunctions can apply in many situations involving violence by spouses, ex-spouses, domestic partners, family members, or people who just live together and are romantically involved.

In order to obtain an injunction, you will need to petition (or ask) the court for the order, explaining the acts that have given rise to the violence or your fear of imminent violence. If the court finds that you have provided sufficient facts to support your petition, you will be granted a Temporary Injunction For Protection and a hearing will be set to determine whether or not a Final Order will be entered. In addition to Domestic Violence Injunctions, Florida law also provides for repeat violence injunctions, dating violence injunctions, stalking violence injunctions and sexual violence injunctions, depending on the relationship between the victim and the abuser.

Intimate partner and family violence cut across all races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and genders. There is no shame in asking for the court’s help to stop this violence in your home. You have the right to feel safe in your surroundings and no one has the right to put their hands on you in anger under any circumstances.

If you or a family member are the victim of violence, find a safe place and please contact Ms. Banister at (386) 256-3057 for aggressive representation for your protection.

Many children today are born to parents who are not married to one another. A paternity action can be filed by either parent to identify the biological father of a child, and to establish each parent’s respective rights and responsibilities to that child.

Paternity can be established in many ways. A child born to a married couple is legally presumed to be the child of the husband. An unmarried couple who have a child together, and then marry, have established the husband as the father of the child by virtue of the marriage. Parents can also execute certain documents to establish who is the father of a child. However, simply establishing a man as the “father” of a child does not necessarily imbue him with rights to the child or the responsibility to help support the child.

In order for the parents of a child born out-of-wedlock to be certain what each of their respective rights and responsibilities are (i.e. timesharing (custody/visitation), child support, parental responsibility, etc.), he or she must file a paternity action with the court. Whether you need to establish the paternity of your child, or enforce the rights and responsibilities you have as a parent, Ms. Banister’s knowledge and skill can assist you and explain all of your legal rights and obligations. Call today at (386) 256-3057.

In today’s world very few of us remain in the location we were born in. Often, after divorce, parents are required to relocate. Some of the reasons they may need to move are to pursue a new job opportunity, an educational opportunity, to relocate due to the job or educational needs of a new significant other and/or the need to be near family. There are many reasons why a relocation can become necessary for a family. The relocation of a child can cause significant hardship on the non-relocating parent. Relocation affects the other parent’s ability to spend time with the child and have the ability to be involved with and exercise his or her right to make decisions affecting the life of the shared child.

In order to relocate a child more than 50 miles away “as the crow flies” from their residence at the time of the last court order, the relocating parent must have the written permission of the other parent. This permission must indicate what the timesharing arrangements will be and what the travel arrangements will be. Once this agreement is made, the parties must have the court review the agreement and approve it as being in the best interest of the minor child.

If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding relocation, the relocating parent may petition (ask) the court for permission to move. This petition has specific requirements including providing the proposed timesharing schedule and transportation arrangements to name a few. The other parent will have twenty (20) days to object to the proposed relocation. If he or she fails to object in writing to the court within that time period, their objection will be waived and the relocation will be permitted. If the non-relocating parent objects, the court will determine whether or not it is in the child’s best interest at a hearing. The court must consider a laundry list of factors in making this determination including, but not limited to: the child’s relationship with both parents, the non-relocating parent’s involvement with the child, whether the move will enhance the quality of the child’s life, etc.

In some cases, the relocating parent will be permitted to move temporarily, pending final hearing. This temporary relocation is not given any weight at the final hearing on relocation. If a parent relocates without the permission of the other parent or the court, the court may require the return of the child pending further hearing. The improper relocation of a child may have impact on any subsequent modification of timesharing (custody) actions that may be brought.

Relocation is a common, life altering situation for both parents and the child involved. If either you or the other parent is planning on moving more than 50 miles from your current residence, or if you want to dispute a proposed relocation, contact Ms. Banister at (386) 256-3057 to preserve your rights and fight for your family.


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